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Mac Mini Audirvana Upgrade


rlaudio
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I've just gotten into computer audio and am running a stock Mac mini (Late 2012, Intel Core i5, 4 GB RAM, 500 GB 5400 rpm drive) that I picked up used. I'm a full Apple household so I went all in with Audirvana plus. I'm connecting that to SMSL M8 Dac that can do DSD up to 128.

 

So far it's been running fairly well. I have nothing really to compare it to other than my old Apple TV to a Schiit Modi, but I do seem to find Audirvana sounds better than standard iTunes. I've read about PCM-DSD up sampling and have played with that as well. It seems to be working and I do like the sound. One problem I'm getting though is the occasional hiccups in music streaming (both local files and Tidal streaming).

 

What upgrades can I make to my Mac Mini that would provide the best bang for the buck improvements? I definitely want to increase the RAM, but am not sure if 8MB or 16MB would be best. Is it possible 16MB could sound worse by increasing power demand? I don't run anything else on the computer. How about an SSD? Currently I'm storing my limited files on the same 500 GB boot drive but was planning on adding an external drive (Firewire or Thunderbolt, as I've heard it's best not to use USB as that's how my DAC is connected).

 

Any thoughts on how to solve the hiccups and generally improve the sound of my setup would be greatly appreciated!

 

Thanks everyone.

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I don't have a Mini, but I have three iMacs, and two Mac laptops, one of which is a dedicated music server. RAM is so cheap nowadays, you should up it to 16GB, especially if you are planning to upsample to DSD. When I bought my first Mac about 23 years ago (a IIvx), the CPU (not including a monitor) was $2,195, which was real money back then. It had 4 MEGABYTES of RAM, and an 80 MEGABYTE hard drive. An 8 MEGABYTE RAM upgrade was $799!

 

An SSD will increase the computer's operating speed dramatically, and may reduce system noise (no spinning mechanical disk). They have come down in price very quickly. Go for it if you can.

 

An external drive for your music files is a good idea, as your library will expand, and you want multiple backups anyway. Many of us still use FireWire, but the drives are becoming hard to find. Thunderbolt never really caught on, and it's already on the way out, too. I've never used it myself, but I've heard the cable connectors aren't the greatest. USB hard drives are so cheap now, you can buy a refurbished Western Digital 2TB MyBook directly from WD for $60. I bought a brand new one from a retail store yesterday for $99. Portable, bus-powered USB 3.0 drives are even cheaper.

Conventional wisdom around here says its a bad idea to use a USB external HDD if you are outputting your data stream via USB to your DAC. I wonder if anyone can really hear the difference.

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Other than the hiccups, the best bang for the buck improvements may not be upgrades to your Mac Mini -- what problems in SQ do you have?

 

can you describe the rest of your system?

 

Well the hiccups are definitely the most noticeable issue I'd like to solve. As for the rest of the system, I've got the Mac Mini connected via a standard skinny USB cable to a SMSL M8 DAC. Then some Wire World interconnects to either a Yamaha AX-592 integrated amp or an Aiqin/Oldchen EL34 Tube amp, to a pair of Totem Dreamcatcher speakers on stands.

 

Like I said, the hiccups are the biggest issue. Other than that the sound is pretty amazing. Great detail, soundstage, etc... The Totems can sound a bit light/thin and can be piercing with bad recordings, but they are also very revealing, accurate, fast and throw a crazy soundstage. I would guess a sub would be the biggest change in sound, but it's just a bedroom system, so I'm not really rocking out. Mostly acoustic rock, classical and jazz.

 

As for SSDs and RAM, I've done those mods to other macs so I know how much that can help in the speed of a computer. But this is just a music server so I don't need speed, just better sound. If an SSD isn't really going to make a difference in sound, I'd rather spend the money somewhere else. Same thing for the RAM.

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Here I was using a Macbook Pro 15" 2,5 GHz i7 for my music with A+, then I decided buy a Mac Mini to replace it, the same you are describing, my MBP used a 500 GB SSD and 16 GB RAM, connected to a RAID of 16 TB through firewire 800. When I changed it, the big difference was the sound, I was using the same software in both machines, it couldn't be the problem. Then I change RAM memory in the Mac Mini and then the sound was closed to the sound I had with the Macbook Pro. I changed the hard drive for a 250 GB SSD and now my music sounds like always. I don't upsample or do anything to my music files in aiff, I only play it and the DAC change to the right original sample rate. When DAC change sample rate the music take one second more in load instead the fast load if the song has the same sample rate.

For other side one time I had hiccups in this same system, the problem was the digital cable. In my case I removed the coaxial cable from an European label and replaced it with a BNC cable from PS Audio, problem solved.

 

 

Sent from my iPad using Computer Audiophile

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If the hiccups are with files being played from the mini, before going down any other paths, I would make certain the M8 is connected to a dedicated USB bus. The system profiler (About This Mac / More Info..., then select USB) should show the M8 connected to a USB High-Speed Bus, with nothing else sharing that bus. If it doesn't, try connecting to a different USB port, and check again.

 

Improving your USB chain might be another option, but that would depend upon your budget.

Main System: Mac mini (Audirvana+, MMK, JS-2) -> ISO Regen (LPS-1) -> Icron 2201 (Rex LPS-1.2) -> ISO Regen (LPS-1.2) -> Ayre QB-9 Twenty -> Headamp GS-X Mk2 -> Classe CT-M600 -> KEF Reference 201/2

 

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In my case the hiccups were because the digital cable, and is very important, like Tone Deaf said, be sure the USB output used for audio is the port with less traffic. If you don't upsample (I don't) the difference between i5 and i7 is nothing. The RAM and SSD make a big difference, specially the RAM.

After the RAM is upgraded is very important to assign the new amount of RAM in the A+ preferences.

 

 

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Thanks all for the suggestions. I don't have any other USB devices attached. I tried changing the USB port but the about this Mac system profiler still seems to show it as being connected to high speed and with a hub. Odd as I have no hub. Spotlighting is a good suggestion. I'll turn on system optimizer within A+ and see if that helps.

 

I will definitely bump up my RAM, but can anyone tell me if 16 GB would really be helpful vs 8 GB? Finally, I see a number of comments suggesting upgrading the digital chain. Are we talking cables, or regent, or? I don't mind allocating a bit of funds to that if it would help but am very focused on the best bang for the buck.

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16 GB will make the difference, more resolution, more subtle details.

Use the USB port with less connections, if possible one with only the audio interface connected and no shared with other internal component (this is the reason why Apple use the word hub), if you can't find a port without internal component assigned use the port with infrared receptor, it has less traffic.

 

 

Sent from my iPad using Computer Audiophile

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I'll turn on system optimizer within A+ and see if that helps.

 

Finally, I see a number of comments suggesting upgrading the digital chain. Are we talking cables, or regent, or? I don't mind allocating a bit of funds to that if it would help but am very focused on the best bang for the buck.

 

SysOptimizer would have been my next suggestion. Since your mini is dedicated to music, there is no reason not to set the optimizer to the highest level.

 

Regarding the USB chain. Yes - Regen or competitor, possibly "better" USB cable. Note that IMO the Regen performs significantly better with a better power supply ($$). Before jumping down this path, check out some of the other threads for the possible benefits - you'll have to decide if it is worth allocating funds down this path.

Main System: Mac mini (Audirvana+, MMK, JS-2) -> ISO Regen (LPS-1) -> Icron 2201 (Rex LPS-1.2) -> ISO Regen (LPS-1.2) -> Ayre QB-9 Twenty -> Headamp GS-X Mk2 -> Classe CT-M600 -> KEF Reference 201/2

 

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Here's the update. Unfortunately unlike a good scientist, I did a number of things at the same time, so it's difficult to determine what worked.

 

I added 16 GB of RAM (and A+ automatically increased the memory allotted to A+ to 13 GB. I also upgraded to v2.6.

 

So far, no hiccups, so that is great. I appreciate everyone's help.

 

The next step is to figure out which filters work best for my system.

 

I also bought a 2TB Seagate Slim USB drive. I took it apart, pulled the drive out and swapped it into an older FW 800 G Drive, so I now have an external 2TB drive running off of FW 800 where I can move my music over from the interval drive. Two things I noticed:

1. The external drive is much louder than the internal one in the Mac Mini. Before the system was almost silent. Now with no music playing I can hear the external drive.

2. The speeds I measured on the FW 800 drive are only about 52 MB/s. Seems kind of slow, but I suppose that will be fast enough?

 

Time to load that up with music that is on my other computer.

 

Thanks again for the help.

 

 

Sent from my iPad using Computer Audiophile

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  • 1 month later...

I added a 2 TB external FW 800 drive to the Mac mini in order to store my music library on a separate drive than the original 500 GB boot drive that it boots from. The problem I'm having is when the Mac mini goes to sleep it does not properly eject or sleep that external drive and I can hear it make an awful screeching sound which can't be good. I even tried an app called Jettison to try to have it ejected automatically but that didn't do the trick. When sleeping the Mac will sometimes just wake up momentarily and then go back to sleep and I hear the external drive screech. Any ideas?

 

 

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I added a 2 TB external FW 800 drive to the Mac mini in order to store my music library on a separate drive than the original 500 GB boot drive that it boots from. The problem I'm having is when the Mac mini goes to sleep it does not properly eject or sleep that external drive and I can hear it make an awful screeching sound which can't be good. I even tried an app called Jettison to try to have it ejected automatically but that didn't do the trick. When sleeping the Mac will sometimes just wake up momentarily and then go back to sleep and I hear the external drive screech. Any ideas?

 

 

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Aweful sound out of the speakers? I get that sometimes as well. It is a Audirvana deal. I quit Audirvana between listening sessions and don't have the problem. I figure it is some sort of bug in 2.6.

 

to OP. I have a core i7 mini with a SSD internal. Be aware it is very easy to fat finger a mini while apart. I fubar' the IR connection, which has the thinnest wire I have ever seen.

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I have a late 2012 mac mini i7 16GB RAM.I recently changed to ethernet CAT 6A to Apple Time Capsule(2TB).

I stream Qobuz hifi TIDAL hifi and use ROON with HQP and use Audirvana 2+(for the convenience of having my iTunes library, TIDAL, Qobuz all m at my fingertips but I hardly listen to my ripped cd's/dvd-a's anymore and I never use anything else from iTunes or buy from them-so much for 2 years+ it took me to rip everything I owned and i did it twice!). I stream to a pre-multibit Schiit Gungnir and Magni and also a Schiit FULLA(which I will retire as soon as the Meridian explorer 2 and AQ DF RED arrive) and use my old avr plus headphones HD 598's and RS 195's.

The only hiccoughs I get are from ROON and occasional crashes from TIDAL ie music just stops and it has to be restarted.

What I do get is that unless everything else isn't shut down one or other 'players' don't work while something else is on- but I have no trouble doing other things like searches email or my EMR etc while anyone of the 'players' is playing music.

I think the SQ is better now with just an ethernet connection plus I can listen all over my house with the Sennheiser RS-195 wireless headphones plus the the Time Capsule allows Apple TV to work in a family room 2 1/2 rooms away through new construction(no more 1/2hr downloads of trailers!).

The SQ is always pristine altho the MAGNI gets 'harsh' after a while and I think the SQ etc. is far better through my avr in either 2 channel or 7 channel via headphone jack.

MQA is very good can't wait to hear it through my MQA DAC's 'on the cheap' that are coming.

Never had any 'bugs' with A 2.6 either.

The Gungnir uses the first or most medial of the USB ports on the mac mini the next one is for the FULLA, I tried a 'hub' but it didn't go well so I ditched it.

I also have some different configurations using TOSLINK connections for Apple TV in room with the mac mini into the Gungnir and for my old dvd/dvd-a/scad/cd changer in the Gungnir and HDMI to 42" LG monitor that doubles as computer screen and TV.

I don't use expensive cables or interconnects-used walmart ethernet cable PYST interconnects from Schiit and AudioQuest and OutLaw Audio interconnects and God forbid Radio Crap speaker wires-no one can tell me that 'expensive' cables wires etc make one iota of a difference and neither does an SSD i have never even heard a 'purr' out my mac mini ever and I sit right next to it and it continues to be very 'fast'.

My only gripe now is that the AudioMidi set up doesn't recognize anything I am playing nor can I change the format bit rate on it and Amarra sQ+ and Amarra for TIDAL don't work at all anymore= YET everything i am using to listen to is functioning fine and sounds great.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I did a bad job explaining my issue. The noise I hear is from the external hard drive itself, not from the speakers. It is obvious that the drive is not dismounting and parking it's head. It's as if it is just having the power suddenly cut off from it and the drive screeches. That's what I'm trying to figure out. How do others manage with external drives? I was hoping I could just have it connected and not have to worry about ejecting it and physically disconnecting it each time I used it. That's not a very elegant solution. Perhaps I need to put in a second internal drive, but I was under the impression an external drive for storing my music would wound better.

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Thanks, those are the setting I have in Energy Saver, but I don't like to have the Mac Mini running all the time. It seems wasteful when I'm asleep or not using it, why wouldn't I put it to sleep? I"ll try these manual setting and just put it to sleep manually and see if that works.

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Ok, nothing seems to be working. This external FW 800 drive won't eject properly and continues to make a screeching sound (the drive, not speakers) when the Mac Mini goes to sleep. So, time for a new solution.

 

What would everyone recommend as the best solution to store my music library? I figure it's about 1.5 TB when I pair it down. Should I just install a larger internal drive? A second drive? The reason I went with the FW 800 external drive was because I had one and I understood that would sound the best---keep it out of the machine and connected via something other than USB.

 

Any thoughts? I don't want to purchase an expensive and complicated NAS.

 

Thanks.

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In my case I use a 4 HD RAID and one of the advantage of this is the RAID goes to sleep after 5 minutes if the mac don't use it and wake up everytime I need it. Maybe you need a hard case for your hard drive with this option or you can try a 2 HD RAID in a case with this option and at the same time your risk of loss data will be less.

 

 

Sent from my iPad using Computer Audiophile

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I have a very similar set up as yours with only difference being that I'm feeding the external FW800 drive (a 2 TB Lacie) containing my music library to the MacMini. This drive is separately powered and remains on all the time while the MacMini is currently programmed to shutdown every night and restart every morning. There are of course programmable power supplies that could be used to coordinate the timing of shutdowns between the external drive and the MacMini, but I've been running that LaCie (backed-up consistently) in my hot AV cabinet for 4 years without an issue and I can't hear it at all.

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